Saturday, 29 November 2008

Grains, beans and potatoes

Fundamentally these are seeds. They will grow into a healthy plant if you let them. To protect the seed from the elements they have certain toxins in place. This is why they store so well. The enzyme blockers they contain put them into a state of deep freeze, effectively stopping them from sprouting till the conditions are just right. These toxins are natural pesticides and can attack bacteria, insects, worms and other pests (and of course humans too).

Let's take 2 examples:

The cashew nut, although a nut in the culinary sense is actually a seed in the botanical sense. The seed is surrounded by a double shell containing some serious poisons. This is why you will never find a cashew nut in its shell at the supermarket.

The castor bean is infamous for the extraction of Ricin from it. This is one of the most potent poisons known to man and 500 micrograms (the size of a grain of salt) will kill you. Enough said really.

The Paleolithic Diet

You won't believe this but among us there are races of people who are all slim, stronger and faster than us. They have perfect vision and perfectly straight teeth. Diabetes, heart disease, depression, cancer and arthritis are nonexistent for them. These people make up the last tribes of hunter-gatherers in our world. They share a commonality that is over two million years old – their diet.

This is a diet that has not changed from the very first humans some 2 million years ago. They live off a diet that man has evolved on, a diet coded for in our genes, a diet your body wants you to eat. This diet is known to as the Paleolithic Diet and refers to the Stone Age era of time.

The diet covers all major dietary components (vitamins, fats, proteins, carbohydrates, antioxidants etc.) for the simple reason that this diet is coded for in our genes. The diet contains only those foods that were 'on the plate' during our long evolution. It completely discards those which were not. Yes Mc Donald's comes to mind here.

The Basics

For millions of years, humans have eaten meat, fish, fowl and the leaves, roots and fruits of plants. An obstacle to getting more calories from the environment is the fact that many plants are inedible. Beans, grains and potatoes are full of energy but eating them raw WILL make you sick. They are toxic to the body.

About 10,000 years ago someone made a breakthrough. This breakthrough was to change the course of history and our diet forever. It was the discovery that cooking made the toxic plant foods edible. The heat killed the toxins and rendered the foods edible. Grains include wheat, corn, rice and oats. Grain based foods include flour, bread, noodles and pasta. These foods are not foods we are genetically coded for.

Why was the uptake in grains so substantial?

  • Cooked grains yielded enormous amounts of quick energy

  • Grains could be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration

  • The food was also the seed of the plant and was ready for farming again

  • Grains were calorie dense i.e. a small weight contains a lot of calories for easy transport

The above advantages made it much easier to store and transport food. Food could be stored easily for winter. Man was free to pursue other activities and not worry about eating e.g. building dwellings and fighting each other. This 'convenience' food then set course for our modern day civilisation. Today man has further improved on these advances by farming plants and animals albeit for monetary gains only. Now despite these advantages, our genes are not developed with beans, grains and potatoes of any sort. Our bodies are simply not in tune with them.

The dangers of grains

  • They are toxic when raw causing sickness if ingested raw

  • Cooking does not destroy all of the toxins but insufficient cooking still causes sickness

  • They are rich sources of carbohydrate. On cooking they become rapidly digestible giving a high Glycemic Index – sugar spike

The essentials of the Paleolithic Diet

Eat NONE of the following:

  • Grains- including bread, pasta, noodles

  • Beans- including string beans, kidney beans, lentils, peanuts, snow-peas and peas
  • Potatoes

  • Dairy products

  • Sugar

  • Salt

Eat the following:

  • Meat, chicken and fish

  • Eggs

  • Fruit

  • Vegetables (especially root vegetables, but definitely not including potatoes or sweet potatoes)

  • Nuts, eg. walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia, almond. Do not eat peanuts (a bean) or cashews (a family of their own)

  • Berries- strawberries, blueberries, raspberries etc.

Try to increase your intake of:

  • Root vegetables- carrots, turnips, parsnips, swedes

  • Organ meats- liver and kidneys (I personally won't eat them couldn't stomach it)

Friday, 28 November 2008

What do Essential Fatty Acids make and what happens if amounts drop?

From Omega 3 and Omega 6 your brain makes something called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and AA (arachidonic acid) that are then incorporated into the cell membranes. These longer chained, more complex fatty acids are also available preformed directly from food. E.g. Cod liver oil, Neptune krill oil.

A point to note here is that the brain's ability to assemble these fatty acids can be severely compromised by stress, infections, alcohol, excess sugar, and vitamin or mineral deficiencies – factors common today.

Effects of DHA loss

The DHA that your brain makes is the most abundant fat in the brain. Loss in DHA concentrations in the brain cell membranes correlates to a direct decline in functional integrity. Thus declining DHA concentrations cause cognitive impairment.

DHA and depression

Various studies have been done on the absence of DHA in those with depression. In Europe for example, populations showed rates of depression 10 times greater than in Taiwan – where people consume a lot of fish. The Japanese, whose diet is mainly fish, have a massively lower depression rate than Europe too.

Fatty acids and Alzheimer's Syndrome

Disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's exhibit cell membrane loss of fatty acids. Thus is makes sense that an optimal diet with a balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids may help to delay their onset or reduce the damage these diseases elicit.

Imbalance of fatty acids and mental disorders

An imbalance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 can lead to a variety of mental disorders, including hyperactivity, depression, brain allergies, and schizophrenia. A balanced ration of the two fatty acid families (Omega 3 and Omega 6) is necessary for a healthy brain. It structurally is composed of a 1:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. However our Western diets tend to have at least twenty times more Omega 6 than Omega 3. That's an unhealthy ratio of 20:1.

This imbalance can easily be corrected by eating more Omega 3 rich fish and linseed oil, by eating less sugar, and by completely avoiding trans fats altogether. Trans fats are found in partially-hydrogenated oils, margarines you thought were healthy 'cos it says so on the label' and shortening. Cheap supermarket own branded oils and salad dressings are best avoided unless they are clearly labelled "Cold Pressed".

What are essential fatty acids (good fats)?

Think of these as Essential Building Materials. To build brain cells you need fatty acids. Two kinds of fatty acids are considered "essential", which means you must get these from the food you eat. Your body CANNOT produce them. Hence the name Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs).

The first essential fatty acid you need is Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) or Omega 3. Linseed or Flax if you're American (as pictured) is a fantastic source.

The second essential fatty acid you need is Linoleic acid (LA) or Omega 6. Food sources include sunflower, safflower, corn and sesame oils.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

What are trans fats (bad fats)?

Normal fatty acids have a natural curve to their molecular shape. When they fit together in vast numbers, enough space still remains so that the cell membrane has the proper structure it needs to function at its best.

However, if these same fat molecules are changed by manufactured food processes, or if they are heated for long periods – as in deep frying – they mutate into a form rarely found in nature. Now their molecules are straighter, narrower, and no longer have their original curved shape.

This means that these altered fats will pack more tightly together into the cell membrane, making it more saturated and rigid – less flexible and less able to function properly. These altered fats are called "trans fatty acids," and are finally being recognised for the damage they cause...They will kill you!

Evolution of the human brain

Once upon a time, some thousands of generations ago, man reached a threshold and crossed it. Somewhere in the evolution of the brain, something unprecedented happened – effecting life on Earth. The human brain changed and was suddenly able to compute, manage and store information like never before. Man had become clever.

Let's take a look at why and how this happened...

The first brains

Animal life first originated in the sea, where there was an abundance of Omega 3 fatty acids. As time went on, flowering seed plants appeared and with them a brand new fatty acid family was introduced. The seed oils of these plants contained Omega 6 fatty acids. Now for the first time, the Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids families existed on earth together. This apparently opened the door for an entire new set of species to arrive that would develop a bigger brain. You!

How did the new species develop bigger brains?

Well unlike the fish and reptiles of the time, the new species, called mammals did not lay eggs. Mammals kept their offspring inside their bodies, surrounded by a sac called a placenta. The placenta is a powerhouse of nutrients and energy and 70% of the calories are devoted to brain growth. No wonder they grew bigger brains.

The big brain change

We Humans are thought to have lived on earth for millions of years, however the big brain change happened only in the last 200,000 years or so. What could have caused the change in human brains? And why did some human brains change and others stay the same? Could it have been what they ate?

The puzzle of the big brain change involved the discovery of early human populations that demonstrated greater intelligence. Another break through was in the discovery that DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) was a huge contributor to brain growth. Now DHA was found in seafood and it was shown that people who lived near water sources and ate seafood experienced the big brain change. In contrast, the populations inland (e.g. Australopithecines) did not have access to omega 3 and got stuck at a brain capacity that was not much bigger than a chimp for three million years. It's not funny!

Fat Head

You have a fat head – no offense! Around two-thirds of your brain is composed of fats. It's not just any kind though. Your brain cells require specialised fats – the same ones that built the brains of your prehistoric ancestors and enabled them to learn and evolve at such a fast rate. In fact these same fats are being incorporated into the very structure of your brain as you read this!


Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Junk food lowers IQ

The human brain now faces a challenge never before encountered in its thousands of generations of development. During the past century, something has become fundamentally different with many of the fats we now consume. Modern food processing techniques have actually altered a basic building block of the brain. And not for the better.

Trans fatty acids found in foods like french fries, margarine, potato chips and anything else with partially hydrogenated oil disrupt communication in your brain. Trans fatty acids are rarely found in nature and are mostly man made.

By modifying natural fats, we have altered the basic building blocks of the human brain – weakening the brain's architecture. And, like unstable buildings that come apart in an earthquake or storm, poorly structured human brains are failing to cope with the mounting stress of modern life.